Lawrence W. Cheek
Amid the bleak midwinter of a poor economy and a troubled political order, I'd like to light some candles of gratitude to some good things and good developments in the past year. I hope you can do the same in your own mind, or as part of a positive-thinking parlor game around the wassail bowl. A dozen seems like a good number, equating to the 12 days of Christmas.
1. Fred Jarrett. This good man, everybody's favorite local politician/character, is helping Dow Constantine and his good staff to get a hold of King County's huge problems. In the process, Fred & Co. are setting the tone and tactics for dealing with austerity and governmental flab. How encouraging that Jarrett laid out these good ideas in running for county executive, got trounced, and then the trouncer (Constantine) handsomely hired the guy and adopted his ideas.
2. Sally Bagshaw. This rookie city councilmember has brought back the sweet reasonableness of her mentor, former prosecutor Norm Maleng, greatly helping the council to become a harmonious, productive, and disciplined body. It's enough to make one long for the soothing civility of Republicans of old, like Maleng, or Paul Kraabel, who played a similar role to Bagshaw (a standard-issue Democrat, by the way) when he was an indispensable council sage and peacemaker.
3. Port Commissioner Bill Bryant. By touring the state and helping to break down the Seattle animosity, Bryant is laying the groundwork for a possible run for governor in 2012 as an independent or a modern Republican. He's carving out centrist positions, and putting economic issues back at the front where they belong. He's also good at scarfing up good ideas from other cities and states.
4. Ex-mayors. Charles Royer is a fine civic statesman these days, holding together the waterfront park coalition, leading the revival of Pioneer Square, and spreading good sense along with good humor. Norm Rice now heads the Seattle Foundation, which he is helping transform into a more pro-active, regional organization, following the lead of several other cities. Greg Nickels is, quite properly for an immediate ex-mayor, keeping mum. Take a hint, Paul Schell, and come back to the fray you (and Pam) love.
5. Lake Union. It now has a new park, an encircling trail, a hugely dynamic business zone on its southern flank, and a streetcar. Anybody notice how much this district is upstaging our downtown?
6. The Sounders. Now this is how to run a sports franchise: European accents to draw in much of that expat population in the region, entering the fray with a top coach, top players, and a great stadium,avoiding the tired cliches of major league sports by changing the subject and appealing to kids and families.
7. Town Hall Seattle (little bias here). It's had a great year, winning a popularity contest for rehabilitation dollars and now gleaming white from its fix, packing in 400 events a year of ever-higher quality. It perfectly matches and enhances the present zeitgeist: broad curiosity, informality, affordable prices, and a whole wide globe of subjects and performers. Good show, Wier Harman, Sheila Smith and the gang!
8. Madison Park. This is a standin for many other urban neighborhoods that have kept their soul, kept their anchors (Lola's hardware store, the bakery, Bert's grocery, and two good pubs), and avoided turning into upscale, catalog-store sameness. Nice new park, too.
9. St. James Cathedral. Gorgeous as ever, an amazing place for hearing music and an amazing menu of splendid performers, fully multicultural and deeply rooted in the city's rich populations, particularly Asian. It's the extraordinary achievement, years in the tending. of Father Michael Ryan, a good old-fashioned Irish priest, and music director James Savage.
10. Christopher Williams, Seattle's parks superintendent. Here is a man, battling cancer once again and faced with imposing deep cuts on the department where he is a beloved mainstay. He does this with grace, love, a profound feeling for the day-to-day work of parks and neighborhoods. Never defensive, always quick to look into and solve problems. Good fellow, St. Christopher!
11. Gov. Gregoire. Lord, how tired she must be, and how easy it would be for her to take another job or coast to the end of her term. Instead, she is having a rebirth: captaining the waterfront tunnel project, on point for cutting the budget (well she might after blowing it up in the good years), and firmly working on creating her legacy. She's far from a natural in the role, but she certainly works hard, stays focused, and agonizes over the unraveling of the grand liberal spree.
12. Paul Brainerd. Shyness keeps his many good works a kind of secret, but he remains the patron saint of local business leaders who made a lot of money (Aldus) and then decided to take that money and those new skills into doing good, particularly in the environment, but also in training the tech generation in the ways of the civic generation. There are way too few such bridge figures (Tom Alberg, Ed Lazowska, Doug and Maggie Walker, Nick Hanauer, Charles Simonyi, Jeremy Jaech, Paul Allen, Scott Oki, and the Gates family come to mind), but they are absolutely critical if we are to relocate our civic blueprints. Brainerd is, to me, the most genuine and authentic and modest of the breed.
There! I feel better already, and I hope you do too. Tell some of your heroes how you esteem them. And please know how much we at Crosscut esteem our heroes — you readers, commenters, writers, and Members!
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